Croatia will suffer the least consequences of Great Britain's exit from the EU, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Wednesday.
"That Croatia will suffer the least consequences of United Kingdom's departure from the EU has been shown by both our analyses and analyses done by the European Commission. That is mostly so because we are the youngest EU member," Plenkovic said on the margins of a conference on support to competency centres.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Wednesday activate Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon to launch the procedure for her country's exit from the EU, thus officially starting the two-year disassociation process.
Around noon local time, May will inform the British Parliament that her letter had been submitted to European Council President Donald Tusk officially informing him that the United Kingdom had decided to leave the EU after more than 40 years.
Within 48 hours, Tusk will send other member-countries draft guidelines for negotiations with London. He will present his position on the matter at a meeting in Malta where he will attend a congress of the European People's Party.
The guidelines for negotiations must be approved by heads of state and government of 27 member countries at a summit in Brussels on April 29. The chief EU negotiator will be Michel Barnier of France while Britain's chief negotiator will be David Davis.
All member-countries will be involved in drawing up the guidelines, said Plenkovic.
The negotiations will start when member-countries in the European Council in May formally approve the negotiating mandate, almost a year after the June 2016 referendum in which Britons decided with 52% of votes that they wanted to leave the EU.
This is an unprecedented scenario, said Plenkovic, noting that under the Lisbon Treaty the process would last two years but that at the moment no one could say whether it would be completed within that period and what kind of contractual relations or status the United Kingdom would have after its departure.
"In any case, I maintain that the referendum was a huge mistake. Britons allowed manipulators, those who speak untruths, like Nigel Farage and the likes, to contaminate public space and convince most Britons that it is better to leave than to stay, and they had a very good status and many benefits. It was a big mistake and it will negatively affect Britain the most," Plenkovic said.
He said that the five scenarios for the EU's future recently presented by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker were not a set of offers from which to choose one. "His five scenarios are a realistic analysis and a basis for further discussion based on detailed and analytical documents which the EC will be preparing in the coming months," said Plenkovic.
The PM said that for Croatia much more important was the recently adopted Rome Declaration which calls for a safe, prosperous, social and globally relevant Europe.
He said that he was not concerned about a multi-speed Europe.
"A multi-speed Europe has existed for years, the best known examples are the euro area and the Schengen area (of passport-free movement," he said, noting that Croatia was working to meet the criteria for accession to both areas.
It is important that the process of integration of more ambitious countries is inclusive and that there is no inner circle of big and powerful countries leading Europe in one direction while the small ones join in later or do not join at all. Inclusiveness is what matters and we have achieved that in the Rome Declaration, Plenkovic said, among other things.